Friday, September 4, 2015

Summer hiking highlights, 2 -- Pacific Coast

To beat the city heat we took a three-day mini vacation in July to the Washington Pacific Ocean beaches.  Since we wanted to hike along as many as could be fit in, we chose to make the little town of Forks our home base because it is not too far from several beaches along the coast.  We were able to visit Ruby Beach, Rialto Beach, Second Beach and the Ho Rain Forest. 

 The Kalaloch big cedar

Our first day we got an early start for the long drive to the coast so we could hit the beach in time for a moderate low tide and perhaps be able to find some sea life in tide pools.  A short distance from the turn off to Ruby Beach there was a sign directing us to see a giant cedar tree.  Unfortunately the old tree had split and part had fallen during the big windstorm of December 2014 but it is still very impressive and worth seeing.  Approximately half the tree is still alive but now the decaying tree parts on the ground will provide food for new seedlings and in a few hundred years another big tree will stand where this old one stood for so long.

Hike 1 – Ruby Beach

 Ruby Beach

There is a camp ground at Kalaloch near Ruby Beach so the restroom facilities are nice with flush toilets and hot water, unlike the more primitive outhouses that are the norm at most trail heads.  A short walk downhill from the parking area brought us out onto a beach with driftwood, sand, rocks, and exposed sea stacks.  The tide was still out but starting to come in.  The day was cool and foggy when we got there but warm and sunny by the end of our hike.  We walked almost all the way down one direction, turned around and walked back.  There were plenty of sea anemones, starfish, barnacles and mussels, a few tiny crabs, both hermit crabs and regular crabs.  We saw people looking for clams but didn’t see much evidence of the clams in the form of broken shells.  Many of the rocks on the beach were smooth, round and flat.  The kind that is perfect for skipping in ponds. 

When I was a child our family used to take trips to the ocean and camp on the beach overnight.  One beach we visited had flat rocks that clattered and made the most amazing sounds as the waves came in.  I have looked for that beach many times in the intervening years and not found it; however, the rocks on this beach were very similar to those that I recalled.


Skipping rocks

 Starfish and Anemones (closed because they are out of water)

Open anemones in water

Hike 2 – Rialto Beach

Rialto Beach approach

The parking lot is right on the beach level at Rialto Beach and the water is just steps away.  It is the most difficult of the three beaches to walk on; however, since there are lots of rocks and pebbles while the other two beaches were more sandy.  There were beautiful honeysuckles in bloom growing along the pathway.  They smelled heavenly and were such lovely unusual looking flowers.


 Hole in the wall -- we beat the tide and made it through

Once again it was foggy when we got there but by the end of the day it was warm and sunny.  One of the goals was to get through the hole in the wall at the end of the beach.  The tide had started to come in and we didn’t know if we could access the hole from the near side and still return to the main beach before the water was too high.  We went up and over, a hand and foot steep scramble on a very narrow trail, to get to the far side and saw that it was still okay to return through the hole and back to the sandy beach before the entire end was closed off by the water. 

After a walk in the cool/cold salt water and lunch there was still time to do something else.

Hike 3 – Hoh Rain Forest

Hoh Rain Forest

 This year the moss had a brown tinge due to the long dry hot summer

 Moss grows and hangs all around the trunks of the trees

Fallen giant of a tree in the Rain Forest

We drove to the Hoh Rain Forest where there were trails to choose from for the afternoon.  We opted for the Trail of Mosses, a little shorter than the some of the other hikes suggested.   This year it has been so hot and dry, even in the rain forest, that much of the moss was brown instead of green.  Trail of the Mosses is a loop that goes through the forest, crosses a stream, and ends up not far from the visitor center and parking lot.  Although there were many people of all ages it didn’t seem particularly crowded.  We had not noticed bugs at the beach but in the forest we had to apply bug spray and I still got bit.  Many of the trees, moss covered or not, are immense and very old.  Fallen trees are left to rot, or if they block the trail they are cut and moved off to the side, so that new trees and plants can grow using the nutrients from the old tree.  Nothing is wasted in the forest.  We heard several birds and saw either a Downy or Hairy Woodpecker.  

Hike 4  --  Second Beach

Another "hole in the wall"

Second Beach

On our last day we got up early to take advantage of the low tide, checked out of the motel and headed for Second Beach.  This beach is more difficult to access; it has a trail of almost a mile through forest and 134 stairs down from the forest to the beach (those stairs, of course, have to be climbed up on the return).  At the foot of the trail on the beach there is a large pile of driftwood to climb over.  Nevertheless, it has always been one of my favorite beaches.  The walk through the woods is nice and the beach is sandy with big sea stacks.  

 A few people decided to try and walk around the sea stacks

 Sea stacks


A wall of mussels and barnacles



Beach flowers

At a very low tide it is possible to walk all around the stacks.  This day the tide was low but not that low, although we did see several people take off shoes and attempt to walk at least part way around a couple of the exposed stacks.  We also found a large approximately 10 foot long Japanese buoy that had washed up and was perhaps a Tsunami remnant.  Someone had tried to dig it up but had not been successful. It was just too large to move.

Japanese buoy

I don’t think I have ever been at the ocean beaches when it has been so warm and sunny for 3 consecutive days.  We left a little sunburned (yes, we did use sunscreen), relaxed and cooled off.  The city was still hot, sunny, and dry when we got home. 

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